As the public phase of the Unleashed Campaign launched on Oct. 26 there were three seven-figure donations made, which will benefit both the College of Business and College of Education.
The donations came from JMU alumni Joe (‘76, ‘77) and Pam Damico (‘77), JMU alumna and Vice Rector of the Board of Visitors Lara Major (‘92) and JMU alumnus Eric Major (‘91) and the family of the Former Chair for Advancement of the Board of Visitors, Leslie Gilliam, who died in 2016 of cancer. The Gilliam and Damico donations were announced at the campaign gala dinner and the Major donation was announced at the groundbreaking of the new CoB building next to Newman Lake.
“JMU has been part of our life for a very long time,” Eric said. “We met there and have always had a connection to the university and a lot of pride in the university. We’ve watched it grow and increase in national reputation, we’ve always been such a proud duke.”
The Major’s donated $1.25 million to name the Innovation Creativity Collaboration and Entrepreneurship lab for the CoB, the Damico’s donated $1 million to support exceptional education in the CoE and the Gilliam family made a commitment of $5.2 million to name the center of entrepreneurship in honor of Leslie. Over $125 million has now been donated for the campaign, inching closer to the goal of $200 million by 2022.
Eric and Lara Major have continued their relationship with JMU over the years through their company that they recently sold, K2M. The company created titanium spinal implants and was sold to another pharmaceutical device company called Striker. The Major’s hired many JMU graduates as staff members, and their executive team consisted of five JMU alumni.
“I think JMU as a university really develops fantastic undergrads,” Eric said. “I find that the alumni that join us from JMU really have a spirit of teamwork, work ethic, a positive energy. There really is this dynamic in the [JMU] community and I think that was indicative by our employee base that were part of K2M. I think they brought a lot of value to our organization as we continued to grow.”
In naming The Innovation Creativity Collaboration and Entrepreneurship lab, the Major’s are hoping that more majors and departments throughout JMU will become more involved with entrepreneurship. According to Langridge, the university is also pushing for that by creating an entrepreneurship minor, open to all majors.
“I am extremely grateful for their generosity, leadership and vision, and I know that they will serve as role models for others who want to give back to support a cause that is larger than any one of us,” President of JMU Jonathan Alger said in an email. “These gifts have provided important and timely momentum for the public phase of this campaign.”
President Alger launched this campaign to “unleash the university’s full potential” as a nationally and internationally recognized institution. The campaign was the second comprehensive campaign that’s been launched at JMU and started the quiet/advanced gift phase in 2014.
The first was The Madison Century Campaign, which ended in 2008. The Damico’s donated $1 million towards the CoB, Joe's major, to that campaign. However, this year it was “Pam's turn” to give back to the exceptional/special education program, her field of study during her years at JMU.
“It was clear that for the Damico’s and for the Major’s, their collegiate experience was one that was all about relationships,” Langridge said. “It was about relationships with one another. They found their future spouse here at JMU.”
The Gilliam family is also supporting entrepreneurship with its $5.2 million commitment and naming of The Center for Entrepreneurship in honor of Leslie Gilliam. Their commitment will provide $200,000 a year in support of entrepreneurship. Leslie hosted events during the quiet phase, the first four years before going public, for the Unleashed Campaign in Charlottesville and southwest Virginia because according to Langridge, she believed deeply in the capacity of the Unleashed Campaign.
“She loved to speak on behalf of the university, she loved to bring people together and it was so powerful to see her presence represented up there on stage at that pinnacle moment of our campaign launch and to see her family want to name the Center of Entrepreneurship in honor for their mother and wife,” Langridge said. “She was an outstanding advocate and leader. She really wanted to see philanthropy grow for James Madison.”
There is also a goal for over 65,00 individuals, organizations and corporations to contribute to this campaign and so far, there have been nearly 48,000 who’ve donated. Gifts both big and small have already impacted the campaign significantly.
“These gifts created a spectacular energy and wave of momentum as we launched into the public phase of our second ever comprehensive campaign,” Langridge said. “The power of everyone giving, at whatever amount or level that they’re able to is so much a part of this Unleashed Campaign.”
Contact Bridget Murphy at email@example.com. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.